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July this year saw the establishment of Europe's largest health and safety agency as the food standards agency, AFSSA, joins forces with environmental and workplace health agency, AFSSET, to form the Agence National de Scurit Sanitaire (ANSES), writes Peter Crosskey in the second in a series of features on the French fishery industry.

The new agency will continue to fulfil the existing research commitments of both its component parts while developing new synergies within the new structure. At the Boulogne-sur-Mer research station, the focus remains marine food safety, for which the laboratories hold two national references, one for histamines and and the other for vibrions.

Specialist Product Development Support

In July, Boulogne's Centre d'Expérimentation et de Valorisation des Produits de la Mer (CVPM) also shed its cocoon to emerge as Haliomer, a one-stop shop for scientific evaluation of fish products and process development.

Haliomer is the hub of a group of locally present national agencies, such as Ifremer and ANSES (formerly AFSSA) alongside the Opal Coast University (ULCO).

Its primary purpose is to improve the positioning of French-caught fish products.

"We are one of two national structures for seafood products in France," explains director Xavier Joly, who receives requests for technical support from processors, retailers and importers alike.

The COFRAC-accredited laboratories offer microbiological analysis for routine tasks such as validating product life projections, as well as physical chemistry analysis to measure product freshness, test for additives or species identification.

The metrology checks available include the amount of ice glaze, net and drained weights and the proportion of product crumbs in canned goods. As part of its work, Haliomer helps clients to realise the full value of the co-products generated by a product.

"Another service that we offer," adds culinary adviser Patrick Coppin, "is a test workshop where we can help clients with formulations and recipe development. We can even supply pilot batches of a recipe to manufacturers for evaluation purposes."

This service can include staff training for the process under development, as well as in-service training in other related fields.

"Our mission has not changed," deputy director of the Boulogne sur Mer research station Guillaume Duflos told TheFishSite on the day ANSES officially came into being.

"We carry out routine product testing for nearby manufacturers as well as research for private and public bodies."

The facilities are Cofrac-accredited with rigorously applied metrology standards. Temperatures in the site's 80 or so fridges and incubators are constantly monitored and controlled to within ±0.01°C.

One current project is an investigation of the anisakis genus of nematodes: the larval stage of this parasite can be found in some 200 commercially available species of fish and crustacean. In its larval stages it moves around in the sea until it is ingested by its first host, typically a crustacean. From there it will migrate to successive hosts through predation, passing through both fish and marine mammals.

As it moves up the food chain from prey to predator, the nematode transfers to successive hosts by burrowing its way though the gut and lodging on the outer surfaces of the viscera. For instance, it can attach itself to the liver of a cod, but has sometimes been found in muscle tissue.

The nematode is only a problem for man if fish is not fully cooked.

"There might be half a dozen cases a year in France," ANSES parasitologist Mélanie Gay explains.

"The symptoms are violent stomach pains as the parasite tries to burrow into its latest host."

The pains of an infestation (anisakiasis) are severe, lasting for a week or more and can even be mistaken for acute conditions such as appendicitis.

"In some cases the parasite is diagnosed following endoscopy, at which point it can be seen quite clearly."

While human infestations are rare, further work is needed to understand how the parasite lives. It is found in a wide range of demersal and pelagic hosts, to which it appears to adapt easily.


August 2010

the Fish Site Editor

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